THE Championship’s North West Player of the Year Jay Rodriguez is hoping history will be repeated.
Going in to tomorrow’s trans-Pennine derby against Leeds United the Clarets striker has hit a goal drought spanning seven games. The 22-year-old last made his mark on the scoresheet in Burnley’s 1-0 win over Millwall at the Den, his eighth goal in league and cup competitions.
But, similarly to last season, Rodriguez is eager to bounce back with a goal against Simon Grayson’s side. At this point last year Rodriguez had just three goals to his name and entered December without a goal in nine encounters. That all changed when Leeds crossed over the border in to Lancashire.
The young Clarets prodigy’s 37th minute strike, which gave the Clarets a 2-0 lead at the interval, sparked him in to life and he went on to score 11 more as the campaign transpired.
“It did (start a run of goals),” said Jay. “Hopefully I can do it again this year. It was a good time for me when I scored the goal last year and now I want to carry on. Frustration has crept in but you’ve just got to concentrate and know that it will come. I’ve been working hard and getting in to those positions to score the goals.
“You get frustrated but you try not to let it affect your game. You just concentrate on getting another chance, getting in the right positions and it will come. I just try to stay positive.”
Rodriguez culminated 2010/11 as Burnley’s top scorer with 15 goals, the reason behind his recent award winning success at the MBNA North West Football Awards staged at the Point, Old Trafford, but he’s determined to top that tally this year.
“It always helps scoring goals,” he said. “I’d like to score, as a striker you always hope to score more, so hopefully I can. I don’t mind any goals to be fair. As a striker I always aim to score more goals and hopefully they’ll be just around the corner.”
The Clarets hitman insists that the international interlude has benefitted both himself and the squad as a whole. Rodriguez admits that the break has refreshed, rejuvenated and re-inspired the team as they look to move forward.
“All the players in the squad are looking to improve and we’re looking to build as a team,” said Jay Rod. “The main thing is to work hard and we’re all doing that. It’s a work in progress and we’re doing everything we can to improve as a team and as individual players..”
Rodriguez was given his first chance in the senior set-up by Owen Coyle in a 1-0 reverse against Bristol City in December 2007. Since then he’s been offered guidance by former boss Brian Laws and now Eddie Howe and the striker admits that each, particularly Howe, have helped spur his development.
“I’ve improved as a player and I think that’s just with the experience of the Championship and playing with good players,” he said. “I know I’ve got a lot of improving to do and a lot of hard work to put in.
“There’s been a few managers; they’ve all been really good managers as well. They’ve all been good to me and it’s been a great experience to learn off different managers and see their different sides to how they play the game and how they can help improve my game.”
Jay Rod added: “I enjoy working with the gaffer. He helps with my movement and helps with us (Charlie Austin) working together as a pair as well as our finishing. He focuses on your all round game as well as the team’s so it’s good.
“He’d say where he’d like to mark people so obviously I do the opposite of what he’d like to do as a defender. He’s experienced in that way so he’s been very helpful.”
Now Rodriguez hopes that the Clarets can become a driving force in the Championship after a prosperous team-bonding session during the break in the domestic schedule.
He said: “We went go-karting and after that we went for a meal. It was nice to be with all the lads. The go-karting was a good laugh but I’m not sure about some of the driving, it was a bit dangerous. Junior Stanislas won, he was decent to be fair. I got in to the final but I finished about sixth.”
That togetherness, morale and team spirit has given the entire Clarets squad the belief and hunger to succeed, and Leeds United, according to Rodriguez, will bare the brunt of it. The goals are coming and Rodriguez is happy to be part of it. He is among a trio of players, including Charlie Austin and Ross Wallace, that has injected 23 goals in to the side.
“It’s been a nice partnership,” said the striker. “It’s really good to play with Charlie. He’s a good lad and I enjoy training with him as well. Ross has scored some great goals and some vital ones as well.
“It’s disappointing after the defeat but you’ve just got to focus on the next game because that’s all we can affect now,” he added. “We are all focussed and all looking forward to the game. It’s made us hungrier and we want to put things right and we want those three points.
“It should be a really good atmosphere, they are the games that you look forward to. They’ll bring a lot of fans, it will be a good game for the TV and we’ll all be up for it.”